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Thread: Second Cop Killer Convicted
04-20-09, 08:54 PM #1
Second Cop Killer Convicted
Gaono convicted of first-degree murder in cop-killing
By Matthew Rodriguez (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer, Angela Lau (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer
1:51 p.m. April 20, 2009
VISTA – A jury convicted an admitted gang member of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant in 2006.
Meki Gaono, 20, faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole.
The jury, which received the case Wednesday, deliberated for two days before reaching a verdict.
After the verdict 17 of Gaono's relatives held hands in a prayer circle and asked God to keep him safe and give him peace while he is in prison.
“No one knows what happened” his stepmother Pua Gaono said. “I don't know what the future will be for Meki but I know God will be with him.”
Gaono's 77-year-old grandfather Meki Gaono, senior, who is also Gaono's adopted father, said Gaono's guilty verdict is just another storm to overcome.
“I was never, never, never aware of what happened. I was in shock when I saw Meki coming out with his hands up [when he was arrested]. All that stuff was nothing but trash.”
He also said he is not sure if Gaono was truly responsible for Bessant's death.
Prosecutors called more than 70 witnesses during the six-week trial. Gaono's attorney William Stone called one and Gaono did not testify.
Much of the case centered on Gaono's taped confessions to police in the hours and days after the Dec. 20, 2006, shooting. His attorney argued the statements were coerced and that Gaono was taking the rap for others.
Prosecutor Tom Manning disputed that, saying Gaono revealed details in his statements that he wouldn't have known unless he was there.
Just before 6:30 p.m., Bessant, 25, stopped to assist another officer with a traffic stop near Arthur Avenue and Gold Drive in Oceanside's Mesa Margarita neighborhood.
Prosecutors alleged Gaono and two other teenage gang members had been drinking and began firing upon the officers with handguns and a rifle from nearly 400 feet away. They said gang members were upset about the city's crackdown on gang activity and code violations at their homes.
Gaono, then 17, fired the fatal round from a .22-caliber rifle with a scope that hit Bessant under his left arm just above his protective vest, prosecutors told the jury. The rifle was later found in a shed behind Gaono's house.
In January, Judge Runston Maino sentenced co-defendant Penifoti Taeotui to life in prison without parole for his role in the attack. Prosecutors said Taeotui fired a .22-caliber revolver but did not hit anyone.
In March 2008, Maino dismissed charges against Jose Compre, who prosecutors said was the third shooter, after determining there wasn't enough evidence for him to stand trial.
In addition to playing tapes of Gaono's interview with police, prosecutors showed jurors an apology letter they said Gaono wrote to Bessant at the request of police before he learned that Bessant died. Bessant was married with a 2-month-old son.
Stone, Gaono's attorney, questioned the prosecution's evidence.
He argued that witnesses didn't identify his client as being in front of the house on Arthur Avenue where prosecutors said the group opened fired on the officers. Stone also said there wasn't any gunshot residue found on Gaono's hands or clothing.Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.
Do not puff, shade, skew, tailor, firm up, stretch, massage,
or otherwise distort statements of fact.FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley
04-20-09, 09:22 PM #2
2 down and many more to go. Lets hope this one doesn't get dragged out on appeals. (Sigh) we know it will, this is California. At least they caught the perps. I have one up in my area of California that is royally pissing me off. He may get off on a technicality, but that remains to be seen. I feel he had something to do with CHP Earl Scott's death.
Choose The Right. When you're doing whats right, then you have nothing to worry about.
Not a LEO
In memory of Sgt. Howard K. Stevenson 1965 - 2005. Ceres Police Dept.
In memory of Robert N. Panos 1955 - 2008 Ceres Police Dept.
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